What was missed in tourism circles recently was that South Korea’s former president Kim Young-sam, along with his wife, went to Cebu City, of all destinations – to have their 60th anniversary honeymoon. This little known fact is important because it showed how the Philippines has endeared South Koreans as a destination, so much that the couple decided to spend their honeymoon here. In the same breadth, it showed how South Koreans, upon first seeking to learn English from us, came back to their own village in South Korea and told about the beauty that is the Philippines. This is pure word-of-mouth marketing that pushed them into visiting and staying here.
As a result, South Korea accounted for 740,622 of the 3.52 million tourist arrivals in 2010, the largest from any country. There was no specific marketing done to attract this much tourist – it is just that they love staying and visiting here. Our beauty is an attraction in itself.
Our country can compete with any other country in terms of the beauty of our destination. But having great tourist destinations isn’t enough. Tourist visits were up 16.7% from last year, summing up to only 3.52 million. That number pales considerably compared to what other countries are getting.
- Malaysia – 24.566 million
- Singapore – 9.16 million
- Indonesia – 7 million
- Vietnam – 5.05 million
- Philippines – 3.25 million
The flip side here is that there are still lots of room for growth, but it all comes down to critical steps on how we market Philippine tourism. Kim Young-sam’s is a vote of confidence from the South Koreans. We just have to do a makeover to show our natural beauty and they will come.